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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Manga Review: Yu-Gi-Oh! R GN 1


Yu-Gi-Oh! R volume 1
Authors: Akira Ito & Kazuki Takahashi
Viz Media
216 pages
A Wicked Shadow! It's been many duels since Yugi defeated Maxmilion Pegasus, the super-rich designer of the collectible card game "Duel Monsters." But Yako Tenma, Pegasus' protégé, has never forgiven Yugi for his master's horrible fate. To draw Yugi out, Yako kidnaps Anzu Mazaki and takes her to the heart of the Kaibacorp building, guarded by dozens of the world's most dangerous gamers! But Yako's true plan for Anzu is much worse than mere revenge... (Source: Viz.com)
If you are a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan - if you spent your early otaku days watching the 4Kids dub on the WB, bought all the Shonen Jumps to get the extra trading cards at the back of each issue, actually went out and saw the Yu-Gi-Oh! film in theaters, own all 38 volumes of the original manga from Viz (some with super shiny covers!) - then you should probably not read Yu-Gi-Oh! R, not if you want your love of adults playing children's cards game with all the seriousness of stopping an impending apocalypse into deep seated loathing of the very franchise. This is from someone who genuinely loves Yu-Gi-Oh!, being one of the first anime I ever saw on television (2001? Yikes) and one of the few trading card games I ever bothered attempting to play.
R, however, is no Yu-Gi-Oh! of mine. It's quite forgettable in how ridiculous and mindless it is, and that's compared to the Dungeon Dice Monsters story arc (although Ryuji Otogi is oddly attractive, streaky eyeliner and all). And the worst part? It stretches on for another four volumes.

The story of Yu-Gi-Oh! R is pretty straightforward. A sequel to the Duelist Kingdom arc, Pegasus' protege vows revenge upon those who wronged his master - meaning Kaiba and Yugi and the gang are instantly set in his sights as targets. Yako Tenma (who somehow has a more ridiculous name than actual canon duelists) quickly takes over Kaiba Corp and makes it his headquarters before kidnapping Anzu, thus drawing Yugi and friends deeper into his twisted web. Sorry, but my personal ability to suspend disbelief snapped clean in half when Yako effortlessly ousted Kaiba's control of his own company.
Also, apparently Yako is some kind of ESPer magician? Even in Yu-Gi-Oh!'s own kooky in-story logic, these abilities don't really mesh. For most of the story, he doesn't seem to have any weaknesses whatsoever, just a lot of god-tier cheat codes meant to make him seem more threatening than he is. It turns Yako not into an actual menacing villain like his mentor Pegasus or even Malik Ishtar but a false shadow of what could be an effective villain, lurking in the shadows and only coming forward when convenient for him. For the majority of this book, Yako hides behind his thirteen card professors.
Wait, these folks are supposed to be his guardians? Pro tip: if Jonouchi can whoop your professor's butt easily, he's probably not worth protecting your interests if you want to succeed. No offense, Katsuya, but considering this manga takes place after the Battle City Tournament, I don't think Katsuya was yet at a Yugi-level skill set. Having said that, Mrs. Kato was pretty cool - although she was the only bright spot in a long line of one-dimensional antagonistic duelists.
Another problem with Yu-Gi-Oh! R is that it does nothing with the series' main cast: Yugi/Atem, Jonouchi, Honda, Anzu. They are not developed and only serve to advance a weak plot and spout hokey lines about friendship, even at moments when it's not entirely appropriate. Manga-ka Akito Ito is given a great opportunity to advance the Yugi and Atem relationship in new ways in the context of facing Pegasus' protege, but this is greatly squandered in favor of a typical 'duel until the finish' set-up. Anzu is made entirely useless by her kidnapping, robbing her of all agency when normally she would be fighting for her freedom. It's a bit depressing that a Yu-Gi-Oh! title can't even do right by its main series' core cast.
The duels themselves, which make up 90% of the book, are monotonous and overly technical. Do we really need to see every bit of text on the card as they play it? That's what dialogue is for! Plus, these duels just go on and on and on with not even a single chapter of non-dueling to break it all up. Even Yu-Gi-Oh! original knew to actually advance the plot between duels; R did not learn this lesson. The funny thing is, it seems like a series that could have been wrapped up in two volumes at most. Why Akito Ito needed five whole volumes to pad out a rather simple story is beyond comprehension.
I should also mention the art. It is there. You can recognize characters from the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series. He does a good job drawing scenes depicting Pegasus' terrible fate. Beyond that, it's nothing to make a huge fuss out of. The cover art is better than a good portion of the artwork inside the book. It's not terrible, per se, but not outstanding.
There's a faint blotch of hope for Yu-Gi-Oh! R at the end of the volume considering Yako's personal state of mental health, but it is buried under so much nonsense it's not worth reading on to find out how it develops. Yu-Gi-Oh! R is nothing special, wholly forgettable, and an unpleasant mark on the overall franchise. What, me read the other four volumes? I'd rather re-watch all of Who Is Imouto – twice.
PS – Apparently, the first volume of Yu-Gi-Oh R came with a free card from the trading card game. So, if you can get your hands on a copy with the actual card still included, I imagine that'll be a pretty sweet find.